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Five wildlife photography tips from Laurel Chor

If you want to venture into the wild with a camera, this National Geographic Young Explorer has some tips for you.

Christopher Parwani

Published: 26 April 2016, 12:00 AM

At the tender age of 13, a little girl from the bustling city of Hong Kong was intrigued by animals. Seeing how these animals react to their environments sparked her interest. The city girl, who also enjoys taking photos, soon embarked on an adventure in wildlife photography.

Now 26, National Geographic Young Explorer Laurel Chor has covered the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, the Nepal earthquake in 2015, and the deforestation situation in Sumatra.

Most recently, she secured a spot in The Loop’s Top 30 Under 30 in Hong Kong in 2015 for her work.

Here are five wildlife photography tips from the renowned photographer herself.

1. It’s not what you’re shooting, but what you capture

Instead of obsessing over what to shoot, try focusing on your skills. It will help you bring “life” to the “wildlife” in your photos.

Laurel, who is the managing editor and multimedia producer for Coconuts Hongkong, said: “A portfolio of ordinary animals taken in Singapore consisting of extraordinary photos matters more than a mediocre portfolio that consists of cooler wildlife.”


Even the smallest animals, like ants, can be captured in a great shot.


Do not feel discouraged by the vast number of species you can potentially capture in Singapore – focus on how you capture them instead! Who knows, you might capture a shot of an animal no photographer has taken before.

2. Be patient

Patience in this field is a basic requirement, as it can take hours, days and even months to capture the perfect moment. More so for wildlife photography, as you cannot predict how the environment will change, or how the animals will react to its surroundings.

Anything can happen at any given moment.


A shark jumping out of water captured at just the right moment.


“You have to be patient because wildlife photography is about spending time with the wildlife and getting to know them and observe first before taking your shots,” said Laurel, who is also the ambassador for the Jane Goodall Institute HK.

3. Practice, practice and more practice

You will not get your “National Geographic” shot from the get go. Keep practicing, and be ready to hit the button at any moment.

Wildlife photography may be unpredictable, but knowing how to shoot takes time and practice to master.


A baby reindeer enjoying its natural habitat.


“While wildlife photography do consist of luck, what sets the best wildlife photographers apart is having the skill to be able to capture that lucky moment when the opportunity arises,” added Laurel.

4. Don’t get discouraged by lack of equipment

While most wildlife photographers might be armed with huge lenses that probably cost a bomb, do not feel discouraged. Your iPhone or any other smartphone can work as well.

“These days, there are mirrorless cameras and other expensive equipment, but there is so much you can do with an iPhone,” said Laurel eagerly, as she stressed on the importance of skill over equipment.

If you already have a basic kit but lack special lenses like a zoom or a macro, get closer to your subject and make do with what you have. Just don’t get too close to the squirrel before it jumps on your face!


A group of elephants Laurel took in Africa.


5. Get inspired

Blending your own style with others is a great way to introduce diversity in your shots. Don’t be afraid to experiment with something different.

Laurel said humbly: “Make sure you look at other photographers’ work. Your shots will get cliché over time, so seeing other wildlife photos can help you envision your own angle and shots.”


A herd of bulls Laurel photographed on her adventures.


For those who dream of shooting for National Geographic, Laurel shared that they only pick the best photographers who show quality in their work and are dedicated to taking photos.

“Always focus on the quality of your work, don’t give up and just keep shooting,” said Laurel.

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